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Cruisers will shine on Chula Vista's Third Ave. Jon Campbell | Sun, May 16 2010 01:33 PM

Custom low-riders and vintage cars will once again grace Third Avenue in Chula Vista this summer, after the city and a local car club resolved a dispute that had threatened to put the skids on a nearly 30-year summer tradition.

The South Bay Cruisers, which for years has orchestrated the weekly Blast from the Past car show on Third Avenue, threatened earlier this year to stop the show over differences with the Police Department centering largely on parking violations.

A legal agreement with the city will lay out policies for the car show, formalizing what had been a decades-long informal understanding with former Police Chief Richard Emerson.

Robert Naranjo, the group's spokesman, said the agreement would pave the way for the show to come back.

"We all had one objective, and that was to bring commerce to the downtown Chula Vista area, and to bring it in a way that would be safe and that would be fun," said Naranjo. He said the parties had all made compromises on the final agreement, which was signed between the South Bay Cruisers, the Third Avenue Village Association, which helps promote the show, and the Police Department.

The agreement will designate six club members as formal observers of the show, responsible for ensuring that participants park in designated areas and pay the city's meters. Volunteers will be in contact with local police and parking enforcement via short-wave radio to make sure everyone follows the rules. The agreement also designates grass areas of Memorial Park for the display of show cars, a point of contention after city officials said unregulated parking on the grass had damaged sprinklers and burned the turf. The agreement also formally permits temporary loading and unloading in the city's red no parking zones.

When the dispute went public in January, the South Bay Cruisers accused the Police Department of a "Gestapo-like" crackdown on minor parking and other violations, things that had long been tolerated under an informal agreement with Emerson.

Naranjo claimed that the department had issued 50 tickets on the last day of the show in August last year, but records provided by the department show only 10 tickets issued on that day.

Naranjo said at the time that the change in policies was confusing.

"We've been running the show for 30 years without any problems ... we don't understand why, where this is coming from," Naranjo said in January.

City officials portrayed the friction as the result of the event's growing popularity.

As the event - and the city itself - have grown over the years, police said complaints from neighbors and nearby businesses had prompted a re-evaluation of how to manage the show, which routinely draws significant crowds.

Executive director for the Third Avenue Village Association Greg Mattson said he was happy with the new agreement.

He said he was confident the show would go on without a hitch this year, and would continue to draw visitors to the city's core.

"The more exposure we have for Third Avenue, the better off we're going to be," said Mattson.

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